Port Hardy’s all candidates forum meeting posed three preset questions with a few unfiltered public questions. The notices to the community running up to the event made no mention of letting residents ask questions to candidates.
The forum featured each councillor candidate and the two mayoral candidates, but the question here is about the format. Many residents beforehand were worried the event wouldn’t even allow for public comments.
Papers were given for those residents who wanted to ask a question, in case they wanted to keep anonymity by having the moderators ask the question for them. For those who wanted to ask a question, a ticket was given out to put into a draw so that locals could go up to the microphone to ask. This is fine and dandy, but why have the preset questions? I get that they were the standard, run of the mill questions asking each candidate about their past involvement in the town, their past work experience and how that might be a benefit to being on council, and why they might be choosing to run.
I’d argue most of the residents were more concerned about the candidates’ views on local issues. A lot of the public questions focused on immediate concerns residents have in town.
For example, one question that was asked was on the growing issue of public intoxication. Many candidates admitted the issue didn’t so much fall on the shoulders of municipal government, but rather on the RCMP.
If the format allowed for more time to talk on the question, I’m sure a lot of candidates might have a lot more to say on public intoxication, but a huge chunk of the time was spent on what would basically be thought of as a biography of each candidate. What would be even more interesting is if the event wasn’t a forum and was instead run as a debate on local issues. That would certainly spur a lot more conversation.
Another resident asked a question about empty storefronts in the town. Again, the candidates didn’t have much time to explain much on it. And the depth of each answer basically evolved into one talking point – the municipal government can only encourage economic development so that local business owners will open shop in these empty lots. If the candidates had more time to talk, they might have had a bit more substance to the issue.
Many of the candidates were hard-pressed in answering the questions in a one-minute time frame. The answers were definitely hurried and the issues were left unaddressed in many ways. Let’s hope four years from now candidates might have the opportunity to answer more of the public’s questions on these sorts of pressing local issues.
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